Warriors sweep first two rounds
For many this may not come as a surprise. The dominance of the Warriors has been overlooked for most of the season. With Kevin Durant coming back healthy – barring any future injuries – the Dubs should be able to dismantle the Trailblazers with ease. The challenging part is in round two; potential matchups with either Utah or LA seem to be difficult away games for the Dubs. However, for Utah’s sake – being their first postseason with this roster – inexperience will lead to careless mistakes that they cannot afford against Golden State. Unfortunately for the Clippers, Chris Paul will once again be the only competitor on his team this post-season, which is just not enough to beat the well-oiled machine that is Golden State.
The Clippers will force a Butler Reunion
This series will culminate in a game seven in the Staples Center one way or another. At the end of the day, experience favors playoff basketball. This aforementioned experience will result in the Clippers taking advantage of Utah’s mistakes on both ends of the court. This sudden first round exit will resignate in Utah’s star forward, Gordon Hayward. The impending free-agent will look across the country to Beantown. Yearning for a chance at glory and titles, Gordon will join the up and coming Boston Celtics and challenge LeBron for the throne in the East. It seems like a match made in heaven for Brad Stevens to be reunited with his most prolific product from Butler.
LeBron will have to play two game sevens on his way to the finals
The simple fact is that the Cavaliers are not the same team they were last year. On top of that the rest of the East got better – significantly for that matter. Toronto, an eventual second round matchup, gets their star guard back from an injury that held him out for a large part of the season. A returning Kyle Lowry paired with feisty wing, P.J. Tucker, and Serge Ibaka swallowing shots up the middle, should prove competition enough for the Cavaliers. Toronto was a six game series last year for LeBron and co; this year the Raptors are looking significantly better, while the Cavaliers don’t have the requisite intimidation. After an eventual seven game series, Cleveland should expect nothing short of a bloodbath in the eastern conference finals. A potential pairing with a Boston/Washington doesn’t bode well for the Cavs. Both teams defined by grit and hard nosed defense will surely make Cleveland have to earn every bucket. At the end of the day, however, it seems like Boston is one year away from contender status. Thus, Cleveland will once again find its way to the NBA finals, by the skin of their teeth for that matter.
San Antonio will have (another) early exit
The thought of a Spurs-Warriors conference finals should give all NBA admirer goosebumps. Traditional versus a new age. Rooted versus spontaneous. Klaw versus the Slim Reaper. Unfortunately, this meeting will not happen. A Memphis team that is surely going to put up a good fight will most likely weaken an already slow Spurs team. The thought of a second round matchup against either the Thunder or the Rockets should scare all San Antonio fans. The fact of the matter is that the Spurs won’t be able to keep up with the pace of Oklahoma or be able to match the precise court spacing of a James Harden lead team. Banging the ball inside with Gasol or Aldridge won’t work against Steven Adams and Enes Kanter; attempting to put these bigs on the three point line on a Ryan Anderson or a Trevor Ariza also wouldn’t work. Popovich and Buford are in for a stressful offseason, once again being let down by a quick playoff appearance.